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Keep equality, diversity and inclusion front of mind


John Moore

John Moore

John Moore

This has been a year of change for businesses in Northern Ireland, with all having to adapt quickly to vast shifts in our world of work caused by Covid-19, concern about the economy and increasing uncertainty around the impact of Brexit.

One priority which may be perceived to have taken a back seat is progression on equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I). But in fact, when it comes to recruiting new staff, ED&I is now established as one of the highest priorities for jobseekers. According to research published in the Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2020, an organisation’s ED&I policies are important to nearly three quarters (73%) of professionals when considering a new role.

Half (50%) of professionals believe their chances of being selected for a job have been limited because of their background or an identifying factor, which was highest among those who have a disability, those with caring responsibilities and BME respondents. These findings are largely unchanged from when we conducted a comparable survey in September 2019, indicating that progress still needs to be made.

Overall it is clear there is a very real risk that employers will reduce the pool of talent from which they will hire if ED&I is not a core element of their talent acquisition strategy.

Showing a strong commitment will aid retention

Beyond talent attraction, ED&I still needs to be a focus for improved employee retention. Staff want to see a strong, genuine commitment to ED&I from their employer. According to our research, nearly three quarters (74%) want their organisation to have a voice on current diversity and inclusion issues and failure to see this in the form of support from ED&I campaigns would prompt 39% to look for a different job.

A spotlight on flexible working

It’s important to highlight the interplay between flexible working and ED&I in the workplace. Providing a variety of well-designed and meaningful working options has huge bearings on the diversity of a workforce which is echoed by the vast majority (86%) of professionals, who believe that increased access to flexible working practices can help organisations gain access to a more diverse pool of talent.

That’s not to say that there aren’t potential drawbacks to working flexibly, as it can induce feelings of isolation, blurred boundaries between work and home lives and barriers communication. If flexible working is to remain a core part of our way of working from now on, employers need to be mindful of these drawbacks to ensure their workplaces remain as inclusive as possible.

Three practical actions employers can take:

- Demonstrate your commitment to ED&I. A diverse and inclusive workforce is no longer a nice-to-have and policies which demonstrate a commitment to this are crucial to not diminish your talent pool.

- Ensure ED&I initiatives are promoted throughout the recruitment process. From flexible working to active support for diversity events, any ED&I initiatives need to be promoted via job adverts and on your careers website.

- Understand that flexible working is not one-size-fits-all. Our research illuminated various benefits and drawbacks to flexible working arrangements and made it clear that the optimum way of working is dependent on that individual’s unique circumstances. Try to be mindful of, and accommodating to, individual preferences of working in different ways – and open to allowing truly flexible working practices to everyone in your workforce, not just parents or carers.

These times certainly continue to be testing for organisations and individuals alike, but not taking positive action to progress your ED&I commitments is detrimental to talent attraction and retention – two areas organisations can’t afford to have a weakness in.

Ulster Business